The Toughest NCAAF Conference Debate… Actual Close Competition

August 25, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

When discussion of college football’s toughest conferences comes up, the ACC is rarely mentioned. Since many of the ACC schools are located in the same vicinity as their SEC brethren, they are often forgotten about or dismissed as quality football schools. The ACC is regularly dismissed by the commentariat simply because it’s not the SEC. Optimist Prime has arrived to right this wrong, and open your eyes to the competitiveness of the 2010 version of the ACC.

In my experience, the typical fan or commentator reaction to a conference without one or two overwhelming favorites is to dismiss said conference as mediocre. Sometimes they are exactly right, but this year I don’t believe they are.

The ACC is going to have a competitive conference title race in both divisions, and the team’s duking it out will all be quality teams. I understand that many of you will dismiss my pre-season prognostication because it’s August. However – August IS the pre-season. I am not psychic, just as none of the other pre-season commentators are psychic. The only information that we have to work with is pre-season rankings and statistics from last year. By the time November rolls around I may deny that I ever wrote this post. For now, read on as I lay out the case for the ACC being 2010’s toughest, most competitive conference.

First of all, let’s examine things from a team perspective. Five of the ACC’s twelve teams are ranked in the pre-season AP and USA Today polls. That portends tough competition throughout the conference. Beyond that, even the ACC’s traditional football doormat, Duke, is expected to field a competitive squad. Look up and down the ACC schedule, there is not one team who sticks out as a pushover. Though there are no ACC teams that scream “national championship contender” in the pre-season, there are several teams that look like they will contend for the all-important nine or ten win threshold, signaling competitive depth throughout the conference.

Drilling down from the team angle, let’s examine the depth of returning skill players through the ACC. For the first time in ACC history, the conference returns five 1,000 yard rushers. Beyond the five returning thousand yard rushers, quality returns with backs like Georgia Tech’s Anthony Allen, who averaged over ten yards a touch last season. Virginia Tech returns Darren Evans off an injury. He is expected to resume his freshman All-America form and contribute to a loaded Hokie backfield. Heading over to Maryland, Da’Rel Scott is one of the best backs in the ACC and is looking to finish his career strong and return to 1,000 yard form after struggling with minor injuries last season.

Beyond running backs, most would argue that a quarterback is the most important player in an offense. If that axiom holds true, that’s a good thing for the ACC, as the conference returns eight of its twelve starting quarterbacks from a year ago. That type of returning offensive skill throughout the league is a great predictor of offensive success throughout the season.

Combining the returning offensive skill with the fact that the ACC returns five of the top thirty returning defenses in the country, the recipe for a tough, competitive 2010 is complete. On August 25 there is not a more competitive conference in the country.

But remember, if I’m wrong in November, I will deny ever writing this post. Enjoy the season!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Big East Football Is Legit?

December 4, 2009

Read the arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer about which games they believe will be the best of THIS weekend.



The Sports Debates created a stir with a debate verdict, written by me, that suggested the BCS kick out the Big East. The verdict was clear (since I wrote it, of course) that the Big East’s body of work in the BCS was unimpressive, and that its best programs were now in the ACC. The furor created by that commentary came from Big East fans who said on a number of websites, on the radio, and in a few newspapers that, well, the ACC sucks, too. So, it is impossible to blame the Big East for sucking because the ACC also sucks.

This argument is a non-starter for me. The two conference’s poor performance on the national stage has nothing to do with each other. However, here we are in early December approaching championship weekend and one of those conferences is sprinting to the finish, and the other is downtrodden, wounded, and limping to the regular season’s finish. The ACC has a four loss Clemson team facing a two loss Georgia Tech team. Both are coming off of emotional losses to an archrival. The Big East, on the other hand, features one team coming off of a loss to a rival in Pittsburgh, and an undefeated top five team in Cincinnati. The Big East certainly features the better game. In fact, it is the best game of THIS weekend.

Maybe TSD will get more fodder with a Big East-ACC champion BCS bowl matchup. That would help generate a new debate. I’ll put in a word.

So, the team matchup is a good one, but so is the coaching matchup. Everyone in the world has now heard the rumors about Brian Kelly’s affair with Tiger Woods. Er, rather, Brian Kelly’s possible departure to South Bend to coach the Fighting Irish next season. A win is good for Cincinnati and good for Kelly. The winner of this game wins the championship in the Big East and is awarded a BCS berth and the hefty pay check that goes along with it. That would be a nice present to leave Cincinnati, should Brian Kelly be moving along to greener – and “golder” – pastures.

Once the BCS selection show occurs on Sunday – depending on what happens with Florida, Alabama, and Texas – Cincinnati may also back its way in to the national title game, as well. It is not a lock, but it is not unreasonable, either. Ask another team from Ohio, Ohio State. A Big East win from Pitt over highly ranked West Virginia late in the season helped secure a spot in the title game for the Buckeyes just a few seasons ago.

Cincinnati has a lot riding on this game. But, after all of this ancillary stuff, there is also an actual GAME to be played between two teams that are both excellent and that both create matchup problems for the other.

Pitt has been tough to figure out this season. Wins over solid teams (not great, but solid) like Navy, Notre Dame, Connecticut, and South Florida are nice. But, a close win over a mercurial team like Rutgers is perplexing, as is the loss to one of the more awful teams in the ACC at North Carolina State, and the vaunted defense giving up 27 points to Buffalo. Not to mention the team is coming off of a tough, emotional loss to its rival in the Backyard Brawl. Plus, Pitt has yet to play a ranked team this season. On the surface it appears as though the Panthers are going to get clobbered by the unbeaten Cincinnati.

But, Pitt does seem to have a good defense. The Panthers’ defense is second in conference allowing less than 18 points per game and a second-best 208 yards per game passing. The Panthers will need those defensive numbers to remain solid, too. They face a Cincinnati team that leads the Big East in just about every offensive category.

The best matchup of the game is Pitt’s defense against Cincinnati’s vaunted passing offense, which is led by healthy quarterback Tony Pike and AFCA First Team All-American receiver Mardy Ginyard. Pike, despite missing three entire games, is still second in the Big East in passing yards. Ginyard is second in the conference with over 1,000 yards receiving already and nearly 100 yards per game along with being one of only two pass catchers in the conference with 10 touchdowns.

Pitt has a good offense, and Cincinnati has suspect defense, ranking near the bottom of the conference thanks to giving up nearly 350 yards of offense per game.

Bottom line, if you like offense you will like this game (are you reading this Loyal Homer?). Defenses may make a couple of big plays here and there, but the main story of the game revolves around which team will get the ball last.

Oh, and it is supposed to snow. Bonus! It will be interesting to see if the conditions will slow either team down. My seasoned gut says no.

This game has plenty going on the field and off it. It is also on at 12n, so it doesn’t conflict with the other more talked about games my colleagues are putting pen to paper about. As far as dramatic sports stories, it is hard to top all of the craziness and drama around this game. For on and off the field reasons, this is the best game of THIS weekend.

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The Football Feast Winner Debate – SEC Recruits Future Wins From the ACC

November 30, 2009

Read the arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer about which teams or conferences won the Thanksgiving football feast over the long weekend.



It’s good to be the SEC right now. National title hopes? Check. Multiple spots in the highly-lucrative BCS games? Check. Dominate the other regional conference? Check. Winner of Thanksgiving 2009’s Football Feast? Check!

Every rabid college football fan knows how important recruiting is. Sure, some college football writers like Sports Illustrated writer Stewart Mandel have indelicate names for these rabid fans, but I call them smart. These types of fans are tuned in; they understand not just how to win game to game but how to build a sustainable program. True fans believe in program building. Fair weather fans worry about games or select seasons. It’s the difference between rooting for a football team and rooting for a football program.

Every rabid college football fan knows that the SEC wiped the floor with the ACC over the Thanksgiving holiday, further complicating the ACC’s attempt to climb back to national relevance with powerhouse recruiting. Most importantly, all of the recruits that were visiting those home SEC games, those intrastate rivalry games, would be fools to choose the ACC school.

The ACC had three opportunities over the weekend to assert itself as a conference that rivaled the talent level and energy of the SEC, and all were extremely important within each state. At each of these games the cream of the recruiting crop in each state was in attendance and observed an SEC whooping.

The first game took place in South Carolina where a 6-5 South Carolina team was hosting an 8-3 Clemson team that already clinched its division and has an opportunity to take a run at a BCS. Clemson had the record, the momentum, and the star in running back CJ Spiller. But the entire team laid a massive egg in a 34-17 loss. The inability to stop the run (223 yards allowed on the ground) and the inability run the ball (net 48 rushing yards) taught an important lesson to lineman and skill player recruits in attendance – if the game is won in the trenches, one team can win and one team cannot. South Carolina’s finest no doubt took note. A seemingly down and out SEC team with a bad record beat an ACC division winner.

Virtually a carbon copy of the South Carolina game emerged in Georgia. The seventh ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets saw senior night ruined at the oldest stadium in college football in the famed rivalry, “Clean, Old Fashioned Hate.” Georgia racked up a 30-24 victory and gave Tech a taste of its own medicine, limiting the Jackets to just over 200 yards on the ground – well below the team’s average – and amassed 339 against the Jackets’ defense. Georgia is one of the premier recruiting states for high school football with two established and elite programs in the state. As good of a coach and a recruiter as Tech head coach Paul Johnson is, it is a tough sell sitting in the homes of some of the elites in Georgia when a clearly inferior Georgia team dominated a supposedly superior Tech team.

Last, in a game I actually believed would be good, Florida dismantled a bad Florida State team. Yet another talent-rich recruiting state – probably the best of the three – saw the SEC team in the rivalry completely destroy the ACC counterpart, this time 37-10. In keeping with the running theme, Florida ran for 311 yards to FSU’s 83.

In all three cases the SEC had a more dominant offensive and defensive line than the ACC did. For the ACC to catch up with the SEC in terms of talent, it has to show improvement between the hash marks, not just at the skill positions. The ACC showed it still has a long, long way to go.

It does not matter that the ACC is better than the Big East, or that some teams in the ACC are better than others as we learned last weekend. There are few weekends – few opportunities – each football season for the ACC to prove to the SEC and the world that it is equal or better than the SEC, and begin balancing out the one-sided recruiting contest. The ACC had a massive opportunity in important, in-state chief rivalry games, and the entire conference blew it. Know the lesson that was taught now, see the results of the lesson on the first Tuesday in February.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Norman, Thy Name is Intrigue

October 2, 2009

Read Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan’s arguments for the games they believe are the must watch events of the upcoming weekend.

Up here in the great state of Ohio, where I have just turned the heat on in the office, the briskness of Fall is beginning to creep in through the single-paned windows. That is a signal that football is starting to get good. REALLY, good. Conference play is starting in earnest in college football, and though non-conference snooze-fests are beginning to wind down, one rare remaining meeting bears special attention this weekend – the University of Miami’s visit to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sam Bradford-less Oklahoma Sooners.

This game is very important for the Sooners. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford still is unable to start this weekend while recovering from his shoulder injury. That means Landry Jones (that is a football name if I have ever heard one) will again be under center as the Sooners struggle to preserve their shot at a BCS bowl game. The week one loss to BYU SEEMED as though it would spell the end of the Sooners BCS hopes. But, in the “expect-the-unexpected” nature of modern college football, many teams above the Sooners have lost and the door is open yet again for a BCS game. Thought Miami was trounced a week ago in Blacksburg by Virginia Tech, many still consider Miami a good team. If the Sooners win this game, the team will have reasserted itself as a force in college football with a schedule friendly to BCS re-emergence.

On the other side of the field, there is another week, and another shot at ACC redemption. The ACC is given more opportunities to prove its collective football value each year, and no conference squanders those opportunities like the ACC. This week the conference’s hopes rest on the shoulders of true sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris. Coming off of a dismal and surprising performance last week against the Hokies where Harris committed two turnovers and scored no touchdowns, he told the Associated Press that he alone would shoulder the blame for the loss. Impressive poise apparently is not solely for inside the pocket.

However, Harris is not, in fact, the only ‘Cane to blame for last week’s embarrassment. The ‘Canes missed a whopping 17 tackles last week. If Miami tackles better this week, the Sooners could find their renewed BCS hopes again dashed.

The game will not be easy for the Hurricanes. Not only do they have to travel, they are likely suffering from “really good opponent fatigue.” This weekend’s game will be the team’s fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent. Not easy for any team or any group of players. It is a particularly grueling schedule for its national visibility, too. A loss hurts Miami’s reputation – and by extension the reputation of the entire conference. A win and the ACC is respected again with Miami as the league’s top dog.

Oklahoma is desperate to hang on to an important victory in their annual March toward playing in the BCS. Miami has more to prove now after last week’s drubbing than ever before. This will be an entertaining game full of big plays and big hits. This is the best game of THIS weekend.

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The Does the Mountain West Belong in the BCS Debate – Hooray for Participation Trophies!

September 16, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Mountain West Conference belongs in the BCS.



It is easy to fall into the trap. We all do it. We love fads and trends. The perpetual chase of feeling or looking “cool” is as tempting as it is transient. Whether it is a fashion trend, a technology innovation, or even a TV show, the desire to take advantage of the next hottest thing is always alluring.

Right now, the BCS is deciding if Mountain West Conference football is a passing fad or a bona fide good football conference worthy of a share of the BCS’s vast riches and automatic bids. In order to save time and resources I will help the BCS out – no, the MWC does not belong among the BCS elite.

It is easy to say a lot of negative things about the BCS (even though I actually like it, I can acknowledge it is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination) and the supposed elite collection of conferences. Without getting into a pointless comparison between the Big East, the ACC, and the Mountain West, it is possible to simply highlight a few key points to prove that including the MWC in the BCS is the equivalent of a participation trophy at seventh grade basketball camp.

The Mountain West has some good teams. It seems every season at least one team earns an at-large BCS bowl big, and makes a splash in the game. Like many college football conferences, the MWC has a few excellent programs, but the remaining programs are not very good. Utah, BYU, and TCU have long been the recipient of dark house and “aww, isn’t that little conference cute” comments from pundits like Mark May and Lou Holtz. Sure, those are good programs deserving of the acclaim. However, depth is an issue for the conference.

Air Force is an excellent example of the questionable depth. While they had a successful 9-4 campaign in 2007, and they followed that up with an 8-5 campaign in 2008, this is the same program that languished at 4-8 in 2006, and began this season with a 72-0 drubbing of Nicholls State before losing to Minnesota – a mid-pack program from an elite BCS conference. Colorado State is another example of questionable depth in the MWC. The Rams began this season by surprising Colorado, then following that win with a squeaker at home – over Weber State. Colorado State is 17-23 in the last three seasons (2006-2008) – hardly enough to convince naysayers that the Mountain West has enough depth to compete among the top conference in the land.

The other programs – New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, and Wyoming – do not belong among the nation’s best programs, nor do they provide enough of a challenge to the conference’s top programs to warrant further consideration for the Mountain West.

Bottom line, many conferences have elite teams and are rightly labeled top heavy. The Mountain West fits squarely within that label, except that the drop off in quality programs after the top three elite teams is stark, and enough to prevent the conference from being considered among the elite.

It is not just about depth of talent and quality programs, either. Taking on the role of becoming a BCS conference is about selling out big stadiums and generating eyeballs on television to get top dollar for advertising. The Mountain West is an incredibly long way away from that. BYU, which has the largest stadium in the Mountain West (by far) only seats 64,045. While that seems like a lot, it pales in comparison to the cathedrals of the SEC, ACC, PAC-10, Big Ten, Big XII. Utah has the second largest stadium in the conference, seating a comfortable 45,017, so the drop off from first to second is significant.

While the Big East will not win any stadium size competitions between the nation’s elite conferences, they will win plenty of television market competitions, boasting New York (the undisputed number one television marketing), Pittsburgh (23rd largest television marketing), and Philadelphia (fourth largest television market), among others. The Mountain West’s largest television market is Salt Lake City, a mere 33rd in the rankings.

While the brand of football is certainly improving in the Mountain West, and the Western region of the United States is large enough for another power college football conference to emerge, it is not happening yet. At the end of the BCS evaluation period no school will have larger seating capacity at their stadium, local television markets will not be transformed into massive “can’t-miss” markets that demand top advertising dollars, and the depth of talent likely will not have changed a great deal. I know fans of college sports love a good Cinderella story – myself included. But in this case, the shoe simply does not fit.

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The 2009 College Football Most Important Game of the Season Debate – ACC Football Seeks Respect, Leadership

August 10, 2009

Read Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan’s argument for their most important game of the upcoming 2009 college football season.



If you’re a loyal reader of The Sports Debates (and why wouldn’t you be?) you may recall our recent questioning of the Big East as a football conference and whether or not they deserved an automatic BCS bowl game for their conference champion. That topic generated a great deal of additional debate after the verdict was rendered, and the primary argument from those defending the honor of the Big East was that the ACC sucks too, so, lay off the Big East. While I still do not believe that is a valid argument within the context of the Big East-BCS debate (e.g. “that other guy punched someone in the face so I can punch someone in the face, too”), it is fair to call into question how deserving the ACC is. The facts indicate that the ACC has struggled for respect as a football conference. They have performed below expectations in BCS games, selecting the conference winner is not important enough for fans to actually attend the championship game, and since Florida State’s precipitous fall from grace (both on and off the field) the conference has lacked true leadership from a dominant team.

This season, 2009, is the season that turns that around for the ACC. That’s why the most important game in college football’s 2009 season is on October 17th when Georgia Tech hosts Virginia Tech. These two teams are the best in the Coastal Division, with the best offense and defense in the entire league, respectively. In fact, Georgia Tech’s offense and Virginia Tech’s defense were the talk of the ACC’s media week… and with good reason.

The Rambin’ Wreck are destroying defenses with a “fresh” offensive look, as engineered by second year head coach Paul Johnson (you know, the coach that turned Navy into a respectable team). When executed properly, it is a very difficult offense to stop – especially with all-ACC running backs like the stocky and powerful Jonathan Dwyer and the lightning fast Roddy Jones. Bruising backups Anthony Allen and Lucas Cox, combined with the quick Marcus Wright and Embry Peoples, make for the deepest backfield in all of college football. Any combination of those runners may be in the game at the same time, and all have big play potential. Plus the triple option is a tough offense to prepare for (especially considering I did not even mention quarterback Josh Nesbitt). The media writes entire articles only on a team getting READY to play this offense. (Something to watch for: the triple option may be to the ACC what the spread offense is to the SEC. If teams have a hard time stopping it, look for more teams to run it in the near future.)

The decidedly unenviable task of stopping this multi-faceted attack falls to the Virginia Tech defense, led by the great defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Foster’s defenses are known for toughness and discipline (that whole lunch pail thing), and he’ll need to coach up every last element of each for the Hokies to outlast the Yellow Jackets. The inclination to make a play on defense is a sure-fire way for a player to overrun an option play. Foster must teach discipline and focus in addition to the usual toughness that all of his defenses have. Last year’s defense finished the season with a BCS bowl win over Cincinnati and ranked seventh overall in team defense (ninth in scoring, 14th in rushing and 16th in passing). If any defense can take on the increasingly seasoned triple option attack at Georgia Tech, it’s the Hokies’.

Power in the ACC will shift with the outcome of this game. If Georgia Tech wins, the triple option is the story of the season in the ACC and Georgia Tech is positioning itself as the conference superpower. If Virginia Tech wins, they will further cement their status as the ACC’s benchmark for success and the league’s domain team.

Last year Virginia Tech hosted the game in Blacksburg and won by a field goal. This year the Hokies must go on the road and play in Atlanta in the thick of their ACC conference schedule. This crucial game is sandwiched between Boston College and North Carolina. If the Hokies win, it is a big time, legitimate win on a national scale.

Not only will this be an excellent and compelling matchup within the first six weeks of the season, this game has extremely important ramifications. The winner could go on to dominate the conference and win a BCS bowl game. For the ACC to regain a modicum of respect amongst the college football elite teams and talking heads, they need to field at least one dominant program. No pundit or fan buys the idea that the ACC suffers from excessive balance. The oft-talked balance looks a whole like mediocrity. This game could change the critical tone.

Bottom line, if the ACC proves itself worthy, college football as a whole improves. Sure, Texas will be good, Florida will be good, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will draw attention, BYU could spoil the BCS party, and Ohio State or Penn State could earn respect this season. But, we all know those teams are good, and will be good for years to come. This is a pivotal year for the ACC as a football conference. They need to earn respect now. Planting the seeds of respect this year will catapult the ACC to respectability. That’s why the “Battle of the Techs” is the most important game in college football this year. It may potentially sound the football death knell for a long established conference, or bring the fight back to the ACC, and respect back to the gridiron – instead of just being the South’s OTHER conference.

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The Big East in the BCS Debate – Big East, or Big Least?

July 15, 2009

Read the debate intro, Loyal Homer’s argument that the BCS does not deserve an automatic BCS bowl bid, and Bleacher Fan’s argument that it does.

Well, nothing brings out passion like a nice college football debate, and this debate is no different. Even before the first argument was published, folks were all “atwitter” about whether this was a valid debate topic. When reviewing the Big East’s record from recent seasons, it’s obviously a debate topic.

This is a difficult verdict, because the debaters concentrated on one year, 2008, by which to judge the Big East’s contribution to the BCS and college football. This approach further reinforces the “what have you done for me lately” mentality that plagues American sports culture, and college football fandom. So, for this verdict, I’ll acknowledge recent history, then add in some historical context.

Bleacher Fan brought up last year’s bowl season, claiming that the Big East was impressive because 75 percent of their football schools (six) made bowl games. I completely reject this as a valid metric for two reasons. First, there are 34 – 34!!! – bowl games on the docket for the 2009-2010 season. That means 68 teams need to be “eligible” for bowl games. Plus, even Conference USA had 50 percent of their teams bowl eligible. It is not a stretch to discern that many of the teams who played in bowl games year were not deserving. Second, the ACC had 10 bowl teams last year, and many of the Big East defenders who have commented here and on our Twitter timeline are claiming that the Big East is not as bad as the ACC. However, “they suck, so we can suck to” is not a valid argument.

Last season did not yield many quality non-conference wins for the Big East, either. The only true quality win by anyone in the Big East was South Florida’s win over then-ranked #11 Kansas. A good win. But, compare that to the other top teams in the conference:

  • Cincinnati: The conference champ lost to ACC winner Virginia Tech and #5 ranked Oklahoma, their only two opportunities for quality non-conference wins all season.
  • Pittsburgh: Opened their season with a non-conference loss to Bowling Green and needed four overtimes to defeat a 3-9 Notre Dame team.
  • West Virginia: Their only quality non-conference opportunities were Colorado and East Carolina… both of which they lost.
  • Rutgers: Another Big East bowl eligible team lost to Fresno State, North Carolina (their only quality non-conference opportunities) and even lost to Navy.

Contrast that mess with what a non-automatic BCS bid conference like the Mountain West did. Their champ, Utah, defeated an Oregon State team that the week prior beat #1 in the country Southern Cal, and defeated Alabama – handily – in a BCS bowl game. Ouch to the Big East. Not a good recent record for the conference to make a stand.

But, it can’t all be about 2008… though it’s hard to deny that the Big East is not just following a trend.

Some history. How has the Big East done through the history of the BCS (read: quality non-conference games). Here’s the list since the inception of the BCS in 1998:

  • 1998 Conference Champ: Syracuse (8-3) loses to Florida 31-10 in the Orange Bowl. 0-1
  • 1999 Conference Champ: Virginia Tech (now ACC) (11-0) loses to Florida State 46-29 in the Fiesta Bowl. 0-2
  • 2000 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (10-1) beats Florida 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl. 1-2
  • 2001 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (11-0) beat Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl. 2-2
  • 2002 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (12-0) loses to Ohio State 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. 2-3
  • 2003 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (10-2) beats Florida State 16-14 in the Orange Bowl. 3-3
  • 2004 Conference Champ: Pittsburgh (8-3) loses to Utah 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. 3-4
  • 2005 Conference Champ: West Virginia (10-1) beat Georgia 38-35 in the Sugar Bowl. 4-4
  • 2006 Conference Champ: Louisville (11-1) beats Wake Forest 24-13 in the Orange Bowl. 5-4
  • 2007 Conference Champ: West Virginia (10-2) beats Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. 6-4
  • 2008 Conference Champ: Cincinnati (11-3) loses to Virginia Tech 20-7 in the Orange Bowl. 6-5

One national championship is pretty good. But, the Big East has never – NEVER – received an at-large BCS bid for one of their teams. To contrast, the Big 10 (seven), SEC (five), Big 12 (four), Independent (three), Pac-10 (two), WAC (two), and Mountain West (two) have all received them. The only other conference with an at-large goose egg is the ACC.

And the overall 6-5 historical record is average, and far below average when considering that three of those wins (including the championship) belong to a program that is no longer in the conference.

The resume is unimpressive from the Big East, both recent history and a deeper dive into the BCS. Is it enough to jettison the conference from the ranks of the BCS automatic qualifiers? Yes. So I must award the victory to…

LOYAL HOMER!!!!!

While Bleacher Fan offered many, many excuses for the Big East, Loyal Homer had one valid point that stood out: Attendance figures are dwindling for Big East football programs. Though a small but steady slide is apparent, recent performances, combined with a poor history against the best competition in college football, has not won fans back. Attendance is important because it translates to the strength –and willingness to travel – in the diehard fan base. Additionally, losing the heart and soul of Big East football tradition to the ACC has completely reversed expectations for Big East football. When Connecticut does well (starting last season 5-0) the collective national voice is “surprised.” There is no team that is expected to dominate year in and year out – a respect requisite in college football.

When the BCS charter expires in 2014, the committee must take a long look at whether the Big East belongs among the ranks of the automatic bids. According to the arguments presented here, they don’t.


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The Big 10 Evolution Debate – The Verdict

July 3, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument to add another team to the Big 10 and Bleacher Fan’s argument to avoid another team.



To me, it’s interesting how this debate has evolved. What began a strict question discussing the specific pros and cons and possibilities of the Big Ten conference adding another team for an even 12 evolved into a debate about the value of a championship game.

Being a traditionalist myself, I find Bleacher Fan’s argument to be very appealing. Like many other Sports Geeks out there, this Sports Geek loves the Big Ten and all of the crazy traditions that Bleacher Fan recounted so well. My favorite bizarre Big Ten tradition is the Illibuck Ohio State and Illinois fight over. That’s why it pains me to award the victory for this debate to…

LOYAL HOMER!!!!!

Loyal Homer made THE point of the debate, a point that I haven’t been able to shake while contemplating how to write this verdict: A championship game isn’t solely about money. A business professional will say it is a no brainer to add a team, and a championship game, because the opportunity to make gobs and gobs of money exists. However, is money alone reason enough to potentially change the longstanding, deeply beloved traditions unique to the Big Ten conference? No.

However, Loyal Homer is not making an argument for another team and a championship game solely on the grounds of financial gain. I agree that it’s not a money issue but a respect issue.

For the Big Ten conference to earn the national respect Loyal Homer argues they’ve forfeited because of several consecutive poor BCS showings, adding a championship game helps. One of the benefits for the SEC, for example, is that it is clear in the national picture which team is the conference’s best and belongs in the BCS. Sure, the Big Ten has had at least two teams in the BCS for two consecutive years, and that has earned them a significant payday. Last season, the first team to make it to a BCS game in the Big Ten, Penn State, earned a fat $18 million bucks. The second team to make it to the BCS in the Big Ten, Ohio State, earned a $4.5 million dollar award. That’ll buy a lot of buckeye candy. But money is something the Big Ten has. Respect is what it needs.

In the end, the Big Ten is not forced to abandon all of their traditions, as Bleacher Fan intimates. In reality, some concessions will have to be made. Some jugs and bucks and buckets will not be contested EVERY year, but they won’t be completely forgotten and phased out, either.

The most important aspect of adding a team and a championship game for the Big Ten is supremacy. Not only will a supreme champion receive national publicity and the full efforts of a conference’s marketing power as they enter the BCS, the conference will remain relevant at the end of the season. A major drawback to the current construction of the Big Ten football season is the fact that they disappear as the other major conferences begin to play their most interesting, relevant games. The last Big Ten game of the season is before Thanksgiving with THE Game, while the SEC, ACC, and Big XII all play national, heavily hyped championship games in early December. The Big Ten gains nothing by being absent from the national dialogue, but they gain a lot by playing their bowl game 20-30 days after their season ends, instead of the now customary 40+ day layoff BCS teams have been forced to endure.


The Big 10 Evolution Debate – No Respect Until Another Team and a Championship Game

July 2, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Big 10 should avoid adding another team.



Before I begin, I just want to say that I, like Sports Geek, am also looking forward to the college football season… or football in general for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. It still remains the national pastime to me. But, it’s tough to beat those fall weekends every year.

On to the debate…

The Big 10… or as I call it, the WEAK 11, most definitely needs a championship game. And to do that, they need to add another team to make it feasible to split the league up into divisions like the ACC, Big 12, and SEC do.

Let’s take a look at the SEC. In my opinion it’s the best conference in college football from top to bottom (right, Bleacher Fan?). I live right in the heart of SEC country. I’m almost exactly in the middle of Athens, Georgia and Gainesville, Florida, so I follow the SEC very closely.

The SEC added a conference championship game back in 1992, with Florida playing Alabama. Since its inception, Florida has played in the game a total of nine times. I think it’s safe to say that the Florida Gators have drastically increased their national profile since 1992. Three national titles (1996, 2006, 2008) go along way toward establishing a following like the one the Gators currently enjoy. Playing in the championship game helped them become a usual suspect when discussing the national championship.

Let’s use the 1996 Florida Gators as an example. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s Gators lost at the end of the regular season to rival Florida State 24-21. However, after defeating Alabama (in Gene Stallings‘ last season) 45-30 in the championship game, they were able to get the rematch with the Seminoles thanks to the University of Texas’ upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game. Arizona State, which was ranked #2 in the nation at the end of the regular season, was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl (and that is a debate for another day)! Ohio State knocked off Jake Plummer’s Sun Devils (the late Pat Tillman was also on this team), while the Gators absolutely destroyed the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl, thus allowing the Gators to jump all the way to the top of the polls to claim the championship!

Without the conference championship game, it is highly unlikely the Gators would have had a chance to play for the NATIONAL championship.

I also think the Big 10 needs to add another team to restore its national reputation as a powerful conference in football. Fair or not, the whippings Ohio State has taken in the 2006 and 2007 BCS Championship games really put them, and the conference, in a negative light.

Adding another team to the Big 10 also brings in another market to the conference. Yes, the ACC conference championship game hasn’t exactly been a big draw, as Sports Geek noted. But, adding Virginia Tech, Miami – and especially Boston College – has brought more markets to the conference and will also help the conference members recruit new areas. Imagine the Clemson Tigers getting headlines in the local Boston papers for playing the Boston College Eagles.

I really see no downside to adding another team. Are the members of the Big 10 scared of this? They have been coasting by on their cupcake schedules long enough. They need a conference championship game to give them a true test. It’s time they step up so they can be considered one of the elite conferences!


The Big 10 Evolution Debate – Should the Big 10 Add Another Team?

July 2, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument to add another team to the Big 10 and Bleacher Fan’s argument to avoid another team.



Another year of exciting college football is nearly upon us. We’re also just starting to hit the peak of the “the Big 10 should add another team to the conference” season, too. It, like the bowl games, is an annual tradition everyone in the Midwest has come to know and love.

This year’s version of the topic was started by none other than the venerable Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. In between stories about first-hand encounters with dinosaurs and how he consoled Adam after Eve offered him an apple, he said Division I football’s oldest conference deserves its own time in the spotlight with a championship game to decide who wins the conference, rather than the current system of an imbalanced schedule and a litany of tiebreakers (Penn State litany Lions?).

Of course, one of the bigger issues with this topic is what the heck to call the conference if they do add another team. I have a sneaking suspension it would be completely creative, out of the box thinking. Something fancy like, “Bigger 10” or “Big Dozen.” Marketing geniuses over there.

Truthfully, there are schools willing and able to play in the Big 10 from other Midwestern conferences like the MAC, who boast at least one good team pretty much every year… and even have two automatic bowl bids (but, who doesn’t?). The seemingly perfect option of adding Notre Dame is off the table, according to JoePa (and it’s wise to believe him… or he’ll chase you down as you run off the field like a ref who made a bad call).

Adding another team to the Big 10 does have some obvious advantages. For example, the conference can add a lucrative conference championship game and make some extra cash for the conference as a whole. The Big 10 has always been a television ratings draw, and would probably sell out a championship football game, unlike their counterparts in the ACC (though I’m guessing the 28,000 that attended last year had a great time).

But, of course, this issue is more complicated than just getting a championship game. If only there was a website that offered smart fans the chance to understand both sides of a complex sports issue and forecast how that issue might be logically resolved? WAIT A MINUTE!! Have you heard of The Sports Debates??? That is a great site. Tell your friends.

For today’s debate, our friend the Loyal Homer will argue that the Big 10 must add another member to the conference – no matter who that is – because the upside is too great to ignore. Loyal Homer is an SEC expert, too, so there’s good precedent to cite.

Our other good friend, Bleacher Fan, will argue that the Big 10 must avoid the temptation of adding another team to the conference – no matter who it is – because they simply do not need to do it.

Make a good case, and pay attention to the details – trust me.


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